Still, this mindset proved to my advantage during a pitched fire-fight. Machine gunners and grenadiers were the first targets of the enemy because of the fire power we could put out. Sending a high explosive round at the onset of an ambush has a pretty intimidating effect on the enemy. It sure made me a target which during one of my first “fire fights,” one drugged up Viet Cong that charged my position later regretted it with his life.
The Army never had the effect my parents had hoped in teaching me to be obedient, responsible and part of a team. All through my three year enlistment the determined independence never changed, and I always managed to find a way to survive. Abandonment was never a conscious thought as a survivor.
When going through Basic Training I lucked out and got sent to drivers school. With a military drivers license I was exempt from many of the training exercises, and this continued in my advanced training.
When sent to my duty station in Hawaii, as a driver I was assigned to the transportation pool. Unlike before, I was now responsible for light maintenance on my truck. Included in those duties was washing, cleaning the engine, greasing, checking the oil, and whatever the sargent in charge could come up with as a form of harassment. This was not my idea of what I wanted to spend the next 30 months doing.
I discovered by accident that the mail clerk, Joey Rosen by name, in our headquarters company was getting ready to finish his tour of duty, and a replacement would be needed. We had become friends and I asked him to help me get his position which he did. As a mail clerk the day was laid back and easy, which was not a good thing for me.
I got lazy, allowing my irresponsible nature to get the best of me, letting things get out of hand. The First Sargent took immediate action and showed his disgust with me by sending me to the Recon Platoon. These guys did nothing everyday but play the enemy for the various training exercises involving the entire Battalion. As such they were constantly dirty, and spent their time cleaning their gear and uniforms.
Since my musical talent was a matter of record, when I arrived in Hawaii, I was offered the opportunity to join the Division chorus and/or the Battalion band. I had interviewed with the band director and was offered a spot if interested. The most interesting part of the band was they enjoyed an 18 hour “special duty,” which meant that the only time the company they belonged to had any authority over them was when they were asleep!
As soon as I received orders to go to the Recon Platoon I went to see the band director and ask if there was an opening for a drummer. There was! I immediately accepted the position, dodging the First Sargent’s attempt to basically punish my irresponsibility in the mail room, and succeeding in antagonizing him even more.
Once again I had survived an unpleasant situation. Because of this “special duty” designation, which was strongly enforced, there was more training missed. A fact that at the time seemed unimportant. That came to an end about 6 months later.
My time in Hawaii began in February of 1965. At that time Viet Nam was in the news, and there was plenty of speculation as to what the U.S. military would do, other than sending “Advisors” to assist the South Vietnamese Army.
By November, the rumors were hot and heavy that my unit, the 25th Infantry Division, would be heading in that direction. Getting this information pretty much fist hand, I managed to get a 30 day leave approved just before Christmas. While visiting a girlfriend in Michigan a few days before New Years, my Dad called with the news I was being ordered back to Hawaii in preparation to go to Viet Nam.
(to be continued)655